Miriam's Story from the Middle East

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One young lady from College Station has a first-hand perspective on the conflict in Lebanon.

Miriam Hage-Ali, her aunts, uncles and cousins went to Lebanon to visit her father's side of her family. The 14-year-old arrived in late May before the conflict, and left the country right in the middle of it.

Her pictures are of a peaceful landscape, the suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, a calm before the storm. By mid-July, it all changed for Miriam.

With the capture of a pair of Israelis by Lebanon-based Hezbollah, there were fireworks celebrations in the streets by some residents outside Beirut. But days later, there were much bigger, less celebratory fireworks on the horizon.

"You just heard the airplanes and the bombing," Miriam said. "They were bombing the airport. We all woke up and we never went back to bed after that. Everyone was exhausted and everyone was scared.

"If you looked off the balcony, you'd see a big flash and then after two seconds, 'boom,' you'd hear it really loud," she recalled. "And the car alarms go on, and you feel it shake a little bit. It's just scary."

For some 10 days, Miriam and nearly 20 family members crowded into an apartment as Israeli bombs fell nearby. The power and water was often off, their tension, always up.

All the while, Miriam's mother, Susy Hidalgo, sat at home, occasionally speaking to her daughter.

"She was afraid," Suzy remembered. "She said she needed me. She said she wanted to get out. She wanted to come back."

"I was just shocked because I didn't know what was going to happen," Miriam said. "I'd never been through anything like this. It was just like, 'why does it have to be like this when I come here?'"

Hardly a peaceful landscape anymore, Miriam and her family tried, like thousands of Americans, to escape through the US embassy. At first, they were unsuccessful, as there were limited seats to get out.

"We didn't make it because there were just too many people, and it was too hot," she said of one of her attempts. "There were babies fainting out there, getting heat strokes."

But Miriam's family finally found 17 seats out of Lebanon back on Saturday. Over three days, they travelled across the western world and back to Texas, arriving in Houston Tuesday.

"I told her I don't want you going without me anymore anywhere," said Suzy. "That was the first time I let her go away from me that long."

Miriam is glued to her computer now, messaging family she first met just weeks ago in a peaceful country. But Thursday, the war hit home again. Miriam's great aunt and her children and grandchildren were killed in a bombing.

"It's just horrible because I can't do anything about it," Miriam said. "They can't do anything about it because they have to stay there. They can't leave. All I've been trying to is keep in touch with them.

"They're bombing innocent people, both of them. It's not right. There's little babies dying. They're innocent. They have nothing to do with it. It's just horrible. I don't know why they just can't stop."

By all accounts, the rest of Miriam's family is safe right now. While she and many family members came home this week, her grandparents decided to stay in their homeland.